Search for new boss begins

Sir Robert McAlpine has lost its first chief executive, Tony Aikenhead, after less than a year.

In a statement issued this morning the heavyweight contractor said Aikenhead - who was only appointed to the top role last November - will step down at the end of this month. Aikenhead had planned to retire in 2018.

The firm said succession planning was “well underway” and it hoped to announce a new chief executive “in the coming months”.

A spokesperson for Sir Robert McAlpine said Aikenhead’s departure was “a very recent decision”, taken between him and the firm’s construction board because he had “achieved what he’d set out to achieve”.

The firm - which posted heavy pre-tax losses in its past two financial years - was now “trading profitably again and the margins the company is making have been improved”, the spokesperson said.

Aikenhead led a change in strategy for the high profile contractor, including targeting 20% turnover from civil engineering and more public sector work, as well as the introduction of new governance, risk management and tendering processes.

Sir Robert McAlpine chairman Gavin McAlpine said: “We would like to thank Tony for his significant contribution to the business. He has seen the company through a major process of transition, which has moved us back into profit this year.

“His efforts, alongside the work of the Construction Board, means that the company is facing a very bright future with a strong order book for the coming years. We wish Tony well in his future endeavours”.

In its most recent set of results, for the year to October 2015, Sir Robert McAlpine posted a £52.2m pre-tax loss, after a £54.8m loss the previous year. Revenue dropped to £782.1m, down from just over £1bn.

The firm also announced it was targeting expansion into civils and growing its public sector work.

Aikenhead was named Sir Robert McAlpine’s first chief executive and head of a new eight-strong construction board last November, as part of a historic restructure for the firm.

Prior to the shake-up, Sir Robert McAlpine had had no overall boss. Instead, it had been split into five regions - Scotland; the North-east; the Midlands and the North-west; Wales and the South-west; and London and the South-east - with each run by a director and a member of the McAlpine family.